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Palma Addresses Connecticut School Shooting

Editor’s Note: This article was written and submitted by Dr. Dominick Palma, the superintendent of the Merrick School District.

On the morning of December 14, 2012, an overwhelming tragedy occurred in a small community in Connecticut.  

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Many innocent children and staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were senselessly killed. As a parent, my heart breaks for those who lost their child or other loved ones. As a psychologist and educator, I am troubled by the lasting impact this will have on the survivors. I am sure, I am joined by the Merrick community in keeping those affected in our thoughts and prayers.

Parents may be concerned about how to talk to their children about this violent incident. The National Association of School Psychologists has written an advisory document called “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers”. It can be found on their website at http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf.

Each of our schools is staffed with experienced Psychologists and Social Workers who are prepared to respond to students’ concerns. Parents are encouraged to call the Psychologist, Social Worker and/or school administrator at their child’s school with questions or to provide information we may need to assist your child. Our teachers and staff members will be alert for signs of children who may be experiencing a reaction and parents will be notified if we have any concerns.

While it is difficult to know if any level of security could have prevented this tragedy, it is important that we, in Merrick, reflect upon our safety procedures. Consistent with New York State regulation, Merrick Schools maintain updated safety procedures for a wide range of crises. Among these are procedures to respond to an intruder at school. Daily, our schools are kept locked and we have a staff member monitoring the front entrance. During outdoor activities, staff members are vigilant for people on school grounds. Nassau County Police Department POP Officers regularly work with us to review our procedures and suggest enhancements.

Before children arrive back at our schools on December 17, Principals at Chatterton, Levy-Lakeside and Birch Schools will have conducted staff meetings to review safety procedures. The safety of our children remains our highest concern.

It is impossible for any of us to make sense of the unthinkable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. However, if we stand together as a community we will find strength.  Please keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers.

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